Is Vegan Meat Healthy For You?
Will eating more plant-based or vegan meat benefit both our health and the environment? This question has been a debatable and an ongoing one. People believe that plant-based meat could be a sustainable answer to global environmental concerns. However, many people are skeptical as to whether it provides the same nutrients as meat.
This article discusses what constitutes plant-based meats, their pros and cons and things to keep in mind when choosing vegan meat products.
Plant-based meat, also known as vegan meat, is gaining popularity as a sustainable food these days. Globally, its market is expected to reach $22.27 billion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 9%. The demand for vegan meat has increased after the COVID-19 pandemic owing to supply shortages and covid outbreaks in meat production factories. The global rise in demand for vegan meat could also be attributed to the growing awareness among people about the health benefits of vegan meat. Animal lovers and environmentalists prefer it as well as its consumption support their causes.
These days, vegan meats are readily available in restaurants, supermarkets, and grocery websites of different brands. Some commonly used foods to prepare these mock meats are peas, jackfruit, soy, quinoa, mushrooms, rice, moong bean, pulses, potatoes, etc. Many of these have a good protein content, specifically soy that has high biological value protein. Flavour plays a vital role in the acceptability of vegan meat. Leghemoglobin extracted from plants makes imparts this flavor to the vegan meat. There is a common notion amongst manufacturers that people prefer meat products over vegan meats as they are better in taste. Studies suggest that consumers found vegan and non-vegan burgers similar in taste, texture and appearance.
Benefits of Vegan Meat
- It has low levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories as compared to animal meat. Therefore, substituting it with actual meat can reduce the chances of occurrence of diseases like cancer, heart diseases and type-2 diabetes, etc.
- Vegan meat is cruelty-free. No animal is harmed during the preparation of vegan meat. In the present food chain, animals are not just killed but are sometimes even force-fed corn to make them fat and get more quantity meat.
- Vegan meat is good for the environment as animal-based foods have a higher footprint than plant-based foods.
Drawbacks of Vegan Meat
- Vegan food products are mostly ultra-processed foods. They aren’t wholesome and could have high amounts of calories and fat in them. Always read a food label before buying them.
- Vegan foods could be a bad alternative for individuals with gluten sensitivity. They might not have ingredients that have gluten but they are often prepared in equipment that processes wheat and other cereals that have gluten.
- Both natural and artificial colours are added in foods to impart colour similar to beef, pork, etc. to the vegan meat. Make sure you check the ingredient list to pick the foods that only use natural colours.
- Some vegan meat products specifically have high amounts of salt added to them. Make sure you check the food packs before buying them and pick a pack with less amount of sodium.
- Women diagnosed with hormonal imbalances should check soy in the ingredient list as soy is rich in phytoestrogens, which could aggravate the hormonal disturbances.
- Some people could be allergic to soy, and they should avoid having soy-based vegan meat products.
Things to Keep in Mind when Choosing Vegan Meat Products
- Unlike meat products, all vegan meat products are not rich in calcium. The calcium content of chickpeas makes vegan meat produced from it a more suitable meat alternative. Coupling recipes with sesame seeds is another way to enhance the calcium content in some of the vegan meat preparations.
- To enhance the nutritional quality of the vegan meats, foods can be used in combination too. Edible oils such as canola, coconut, soybean, sunflower oil, etc., are added in some preparations to add fats to vegan meat. Checking these variants in the ingredient list of food labels is a good idea.
- Always choose products that have less saturated fats in them i.e. 100 gram of the products shouldn’t contain more than 10 g of saturated fats.
- Always opt for options low in sodium. Compare before you make a purchase.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) recently launched a new logo to help consumers identify plant-based foods.
Global food consumption patterns need to change and opting for vegan meats will be a significant move in conserving our environment and ensuring food and nutrition security. Switching to vegan meat will make the food supply chain more sustainable. The vegan meat market is growing rapidly but still has a small market compared to the actual meat market. Therefore, it is expensive than actual meat. As the demand for vegan meat grows, there will be a significant change in the prices of vegan meat. Current evidence suggests that there are pros and cons in switching to vegan meats but switching to it is an intelligent choice.